Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘kindness’

Lenten heartOn Ash Wednesday, at Restore Church we had an opportunity for some self-directed worship through meditations on light, clay, the communion elements, and promises (written on cards). I had the honor of collecting these cards and finally, today, read through them. They are filled with hope and sacrifice, renewal and confession. I share them here, all anonymous, as the gifts they offered to God in Jesus’ name.

Letting Go of . . .

  • Two meals a day (promised by several people)
  • French Fries (promised by several people)
  • Sugary drinks & sodas (promised by several people)
  • The Past
  • Spending
  • Coffee (promised by several people)
  •  Cell phone at night (promised by several people)
  • Repetitive thoughts of loneliness
  • Social networking (promised by many people)
  • Red meat
  • Food by fasting each day until 6 pm
  • Sin
  • Gossiping
  • Amount of time on the phone (promised by several people)
  • One meal a day (promised by several people)
  • Candy and/or sweets and/or refined sugar (promised by many people)
  • Negative comments
  • TV after 7 pm
  • Complaining
  • Judging others
  • Snacks
  • Soda (promised by several people)
  • Angry thoughts at work
  • Food by fasting lunch
  • Resentments and unforgiveness
  • Food by fasting one day a week
  • Internet surfing
  • Words with Friends
  • Movies
  • Future Plans
  • Guilt & shame & jealousy
  • Smoking

Do any these resonate with you? Some of these items are not inherently bad but simply eat up our time and energy. Another set are actually bad for our bodies, the sacred physical home of Christ’s Spirit, and yet some are besetting feelings and sins that are constantly begging for free reign in our hearts. Letting go of some of these things are a sacrifice while others are a prayer. Many of these promises are difficult to measure, to assess our growth or success in this venture, in this time of journey with Christ. These less tangible things could be spoken each day, or many times a day, for they are really a prayer.

Gods promiseThe second list encompasses the adds, what we promise to add to our lives as we let go of the other things. We will fill our days and time instead with . . .

  • Read the Bible (promised by many)
  • Praise God
  • Pray (promised by more than half)
  • Reflect
  • Give thanks
  • Pray morning, noon, and night
  • Serve intentionally (promised by several)
  • Pray for my family (promised by several)
  • Write devotionally each day
  • Talk intensely with God
  • Study the Bible
  • Listen in prayer (5 am)
  • Read a Devotion each day
  • Draw closer to God and/or spend time alone with God
  • Wake up early to read, pray etc.
  • Praying every Monday
  • Say one positive thing to a different person each day
  • Submerge myself in the word
  • Save money

Are there any surprises here? We know what to do. We know how to draw closer to God. So, we can either berate ourselves for what we have not done before, or simply, choose: Today, I begin. No rules. Just promise.

Read Full Post »

I wonder if I would be a nicer person if I honestly considered that the person driving that car that just cut me off or the person who insisted on paying with coins in the checkout line or the huge person who just sat in front of me at the movies was an angel?

Hebrews 13:2
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

All right, I know that’s far-fetched, but isn’t it unfortunate in our current age that strangers equal danger? All children are told to avoid them; women fear them in parking lots while men suspect nefariousness or come-ons. Most strangers are wearing black hats.

And of course, I understand that “stranger danger” is very real, but have we overdone it? Have we extended this assumption to regular people who might be visiting from out of town or drop by our church one Sunday or just want to help with directions–have we demonized them all?

I don’t know the answer.

We have a family friend who is very quick to speak to strangers. He usually feels led of God and because of that, he has no fear. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop and something terrible to happen, bu nothing has endangered him in the last ten or twenty years (both in the U.S. and abroad). On his way to visit us (driving up from Georgia with another friend), they picked up a hitchhiker (as is his custom). They talked at length and as he got closer to our home, he telephoned ahead and said we would have an extra guest.

When I found out it was a young man, generally high on something and recently out of jail, my heart skipped a beat. All I could envision was a complete takeover at knife point. My fears were over the top, but for safety’s sake, I did insist that they all crash in our basement guest room.

The boy was not an angel but he was in need and in the end, the two friends took him all the way to New York and got him connected with Dave Wilkerson’s ministry.

I am embarrassed that I was so afraid. I will never be like my global traveling missionary, but I do think I could be generous with my eyes, my voice, and my mind. I could be more interested in the stranger. I could be kind. I could be willing to help.

Something to think about.

Read Full Post »

Salt is a seasoning that makes things taste better through its chemical interactions with the food. And yet, in this age of health anxiety, we have started to withhold salt from our diet even though exercise could be just as effective. Have we removed salt from conversations too?

Colossians 4:6
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

When was the last time I sat around with some people and just talked? I mean talked about ideas and possibilities, spirituality or sorrow, hope or despair. When has the conversation started heading one way and my comments moved it another, giving it a new flavor, a new point of view . . . with grace.

Now, I don’t mean those times when proselytizing starts or the 4 Spiritual Laws pamphlets come out of the handbag or a litany of “Praise the Lords” drop in after every remark like a Greek chorus or HipHop melody.

I’m interested in knowing if the truth of me, Spirit-filled and intertwined with the Christ within, has acted as a true flavoring, bringing out the best in others while giving grace and acceptance to any hardened hearts around me.

So much is out there that teaches us how to control a conversation, close the deal, get to “yes,” influence, convince or convert people, win friends, or filibuster until people can’t stand it anymore.

When my daughter, new to this country at 15, went to high school with little or no English, she bemoaned how hard it was to make friends. We chalked it up to ESL (English as a Second Language) and assumed things would get better as her language skills improved. And to some degree that was true and yet, it never became easy for her. Truthfully, I am amazed teenagers have any friends at all considering that most of their conversations tend to be about themselves and rarely about the other, unless they are drilling down into the behavior, looks, attitude or boyfriend of a mutual “other” (i.e. gossiping).

I shared with her a handy book I found called How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends by Don Gabor. I encouraged her to try the author’s technique but she found it unmanageable. And why? Because the essence of his technique was to ask lots of questions about the other person and listen to the answers. It’s letting go of feeling it necessary to reciprocate data for data, fact for fact, personal story for personal story. This is the grace part of conversation.

Perhaps it’s time for me to reread this book myself. Or maybe, like here, scripture has been saying it all along: Grace and salt, kindness and joy, love and humor, forgiveness and knowledge, patience and wisdom.

Read Full Post »

Apparently, there are at least three tools for breaking the potency of bitterness, anger and slander that grieve the Holy Spirit (and others): kindness, compassion and forgiveness. And in fact, I believe it’s the marriage of kindness and compassion that makes forgiveness possible.

Ephesians 4:32
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Too often, we think of a kindness as polite niceties. Instead, I think it’s a choice to act in a way that is independent of the circumstances. Kindness is a habit, well-formed.

I’ve been reading a 2010 book by N.T. [Tom] Wright called “After You Believe” in which the good professor is putting forth the foundations for virtue and thereby, character. In the early chapters, he talks about the natural response to circumstances as being the evidence of virtue. And isn’t kindness one of these? We shouldn’t have to think about being kind.

The power of kindness became so popular at one point, there were bumper stickers and a Foundation advocating more kindness, just for the heck of it. And yet, it’s not really the norm for us.

And compassion? This requires an awareness of Other in a specific way. To express compassion, we must see, hear, and feel something of the Other. Without a relationship of some kind, I believe it’s only kindness. Compassion is the next level and implies a doing or a response to remedy the situation.

If kindness is touching someone’s hand, then compassion is putting something in the hand.

The two together create the perfect environment for forgiveness.

The father who forgives the drunk driver who killed his daughter, found compassion and kindness first. I met Jeffrey Vetter and the young man, Michael Jacoby, who drove the car.

Forgiveness must be fueled with something, and is not efficacious with words alone. The heart must be engaged because it is the heart that is healed.
(Fast Day 1)

Read Full Post »

Print by Missy Mohn Schwartz

In how many ways do I have to be told that the essence of walking after Christ is birthed in the Spirit. This is an inside-out faith, not the outside-in. The law was created to initiate the “external” expression of faithfulness. The Messiah finished this work by planting it within.

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

If I can operate in the center of love, joy, peace, etc. then the law is unnecessary because I wouldn’t break the essential laws (10 commandments at the least). One doesn’t lie or covet or kill someone we love or cherish. The gentle soul does not rage or participate in sexual orgies. Self-control brings all things under its umbrella.

At the same time, none of these Spirit fruits can be manufactured externally alone. I can’t act in a patient way without being patient. I can’t exhibit kindness without knowing what kindness is . . . or goodness. . . or peace. Love (in this context) is not just a that girly-boyfriend feeling, it’s “agape” and carries the deepest of meanings and expressions. There are inner motives that drive these fruits of the Spirit. They are fruits that must come directly off the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

And as these fruits become ripe within, they become ready for harvest. And when they are harvested, they are distributed freely to all those around us. . . slave or free, gay or straight, black or white or brown or red or yellow or mixed media, Muslim or Hasidim, Mormon or Witnesses, young or old, male or female, . . .

If we are fruitless, then there is nothing to harvest and the only protection we have, the only way to curb our less admirable desires, is the law. First, there is the spiritual law that God gave as a covenant to the people. But, if that fails, then there is the secular law. Neither is particularly known for mercy or grace.

Perhaps we should be more like those cliche mothers who are reaching out encouraging others to “Eat, Eat, Eat,” or like Jesus, “Take, eat; this is My body.” [Matthew 26:26b]

Read Full Post »

It’s pretty important, this credibility stuff. I mean, if a person blows his/her believability or reliability, it’s hard to get those things back. Reputation is in that category.

I Corinthians 15:14-15a
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead.

In some cases, people don’t have credibility or reliability just by the nature of their job title, e.g. politician. And in some arenas, “Christian” carries about the same pall or dark cloud. If a Christian hurts someone or is caught in a grievous act, then all Christians can become suspect.

I remember how angry my mother was (even after 35 years) at the ministers who neglected to distribute food fairly in the displaced persons camps after World War II. She mistrusted all ministers. That’s extreme, but I think the point is still valid.

I also remember some years ago when I had only been working at a new job for only a few months. The “work room” was pretty tight and over 7 people and their workspaces were squished together into one room. It was a haven for gossiping and back biting. For a long time, I managed to stay out of it, but after a few months of exposure, I was digging in like the rest. One day, I passed one of these little luscious tidbits to another colleague and she said, “Oh, I’m so surprised to hear this from you, I thought you would never speak ill of anyone.” In that moment, I lost all credibility. I was devastated!

A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. [Proverbs 11:12]

This issue of gossip and judgment, without a doubt, my most besetting sins of all. I must desire to change. Clearly, I don’t hate this aspect of my behavior enough. God forgive me. Silence my tongue.

Read Full Post »

Power in the basics. There is such a simplicity to the message: love God, love others. One builds on the other. One is enhanced by the other. And along the way, the love itself creates a momentum for the ages. Love is like energy: it never disappears.

I Corinthians 13:8a, 13
Love never fails. . . . And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I know about energy intellectually, but it’s not something I think about every day. Energy is bouncing around us all the time. Energy is transformed from one state to another, always moving, morphing, or actively waiting. And so is love.

This is how love never fails. Love is resilient and creative. Love is strong and gentle. Love is comfortable in the world of paradox.

Love is the most powerful force in the universe. And instead of harnessing it, we have cheapened it with images of Valentine hearts, cupids, and “Precious Moments” figurines. We have allowed love to become sex. We have watered down the strength of love.

But it is still there. Love is still available, because love never fails. Love is not just the words. Love is a space where energy can flow back and forth. I can’t really love pizza, it’s an inanimate object.

God is love [I John 4:8]. God is light [I John 1:5]. God is energy. God cannot be destroyed. To love others is to “god” others.

If we want to introduce God to others, then we’d better start at the ground level with love. And if we’re not sure what that means, then we need to learn I Corinthians 13 by heart, ground it in the heart, move it through the heart: kindness, generosity, patience, humility, caring, calm, soothing, forgiving, unassuming, and contented.

Love is a practice.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: